Ep 6: Our Man Booker contenders

James and Ashley Stay at Home podcast
Episode 6 of James and Ashley Stay at Home features James and I sharing our early experiences as writers – which always make for entertaining stories – and three tips we’ve learned along the way. You can listen to it here.

James wrote his first novel at age seven. Frankly, it sounds like a masterpiece of contemporary Australian realism, akin to Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, but with less slapping and more lost hire car keys.

Even at that age, he was conscious of the need to work hard to attract readers to his writing, and he shares a dramatic story of how he employed his four-year-old brother as a spokesperson. This strategy didn’t work out, probably because it was heavy on audience abuse and profanity.

We’d also love you to weigh in on this hot debate: when James’s dad managed to get one of his manuscripts in front of a publisher (this was a few years later, when James had acquired the worldliness of a teenager and had years more writing experience), he received the feedback ‘James’s writing should be encouraged.’

I thought this comment was kind, but James understood it as ‘James’s writing shouldn’t be explicitly discouraged … but maybe buy him a tennis racket or a worm farm.’

Like James, I started writing early, and leapt into my first novel at the age of 14. Thankfully no-one in my family had any publishing industry contacts to show it to when I declared it finished four years later. For reasons lost to time, I called the novel Infernoatia. It was about killer bees from Mars (uh-huh, makes perfect sense, I hear you thinking).

It was set in 2020, which, back in 1997, must have seemed like THE FUTURE. Obviously we’d have humans on Mars by then.

To give you a taste of how immensely terrible this book was, here is the actual opening, from the printed-out copy I still have in a trunk at my parents’ place, complete with the book cover my dad designed.

The Earth, our planet; home to all creation as we know it, yet swiftly racing towards its unavoidable end. As it slowly orbits the sun, tracing the same pattern around our star as it has countless times before, its life forms, and with them their technology and knowledge, continue to evolve and expand, ever growing to meet the needs of a greedy civilization that believes it has money and resources to burn. But if, in the distant future, all life on Earth is threatened, will it be a superior race who lives millions of light years away, hidden from view of our best astronomers and astronauts, who have finally come to conquer over what would seem such low forms of uncivilized life for nothing more than their own personal amusement, or will it be that we ourselves erupt into war over our minimal and virtually insignificant differences and eventually destroy everything in battle?

Although both these suggestions could be quite possible, or even become reality someday, it seems more likely that a careless mistake, an overlooked error, one simple flaw in a larger, more elaborately worked plan, will one day inadvertently throw the whole world on a path of ultimate destruction, and as the clock begins to count down to our demise, the people of our planet will be forced to ban together to save themselves against the wrath of our sophisticated, highly developed technology, and widespread knowledge or perish.

Prologue
August 18, 2020, 4:09 PM, INFINITY III, MARS

Space is deep. And black. Unlike being on a planet, it doesn’t matter where you look, there is always more black space. No horizons, no coast lines, no mountain ranges. Just a thick black fog dotted by infinite numbers of shining yellow stars. A vast universe full of burning suns, each which may be home to a cluster of tiny planets, which may each have their own groupings of moons which carefully orbit them. And then there are the comets, asteroids and meteors that wander endlessly past the moons, planets and suns. A vast universe full of places to discover and explore, where you could spend an eternity, and barely begin. …

After the bees arrive on Earth (eventually the actual story gets underway), each chapter opens with a global death count. Which, now that I think about it, feels very 2020.

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Listen to episode 6 here and please rate and subscribe to help us reach more listeners.

Ashley
xo

 

7 tips to stave off divorce

wedding

Don’t go to bed angry
Instead, stay awake fighting for days, ultra-marathon style. A mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Marital Showdown is a sure way to reignite the flame.

Spice up your love life
Cardamom. Paprika. Basil. Turmeric. These are all things you should not put on your genitals, unless you are aroused by emergency medical fees.

Listen to each other
Sure, you’ve been hearing this person drone on forever about the refrigerator’s mould situation and the way Helen in accounts payable cracks her knuckles during staff meetings and that one ingrown toenail. But tuning out means you’ve given up on your spouse’s ability to surprise you. Make the effort to really listen: it may turn out the refrigerator is also leaking freon, or Helen in accounts payable has been replaced by a man whose nose hair touches his upper lip, or the doctor said that toenail has caused an infection, leading to life-threatening septicaemia. By paying close attention, you will learn intimate details that could distress and haunt you for the rest of your life

Have a regular date night
Why argue at home when you can take that shit public?

Communicate
With so many avenues of communication available, there’s no excuse for poor communication with your spouse. Don’t limit yourselves to Facebook and Twitter: get creative with Snapchat, Pinterest and Vine. By sharing every waking minute, you’ll not only know exactly what’s going on with each other, you’ll also create an archived testament to an incredible marriage spent mostly staring at your phones.

Avoid seeing each other naked
Seeing your spouse naked too often can dampen any excitement this once provided. Except for your semi-annual mutually unsatisfying horizontal romp, work together to hide yourselves and maintain the mystery of exactly how much your youth has deteriorated. Stables sell horse blinders.

Agree to disagree
And make a really big deal of it.